Government of Canada sets timeline for Quebec protection plans on Boreal Caribou

News release

June 15, 2023 – Gatineau, Quebec

Boreal Caribou is a species found only in Canada. However, the most recent national population estimate shows its populations are declining, primarily threatened by habitat loss and degradation. The federal, provincial, and territorial governments share the responsibility for ensuring caribou survival and long-term recovery. Caribou play a significant role in the culture and history of Indigenous peoples in Canada and are at the heart of boreal forest biodiversity.

In August of 2022, the governments of Canada and Quebec jointly announced their intention to seek, through an agreement, more ambitious measures that would support the implementation of Quebec’s forthcoming Caribou Strategy with the goal that all the populations of caribou in Quebec can become self-sustaining in the long term. This included a commitment, from Quebec, to achieve 65 percent of undisturbed habitat in each local caribou population range, and for Quebec to release its Caribou Strategy by the end of June 2023. The Government of Canada expects Quebec to deliver on its commitment; however, we recognize that this spring’s historic wildfires, fueled in part by climate change, are impacting local and Indigenous communities. Our first priority is our combined efforts to control these fires and to reduce the impact on communities and our biodiversity.

We understand the forest fires may affect the completion and publication of Quebec’s caribou strategy; however the wildfire situation only increases the urgency to support the recovery of caribou.

Today, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, provided an update on the protection of Boreal Caribou habitat in the province of Quebec. The Government of Canada has provided limited additional time on a potential order to allow Quebec to come forward with its plan to protect 65 percent of each local population. As soon as we receive the strategy, we will take the following months to assess Quebec’s plan. Should Quebec not implement immediate and meaningful conservation actions to prevent further habitat disturbance and fail to reach an agreement with Canada, the Minister will seek the authority for regulatory development to protect Boreal Caribou critical habitat on non-federal lands.

Alongside discussions with the province in 2023, Minister Guilbeault formed the opinion that portions of Boreal Caribou critical habitat on non-federal lands are not effectively protected in the province and recommended a critical habitat protection order for unprotected portions, as required under the Species at Risk Act.

The Government of Canada is having productive discussions with Indigenous leaders from Quebec and recognizes the important role that Indigenous peoples play in wildlife conservation, as well as the need to consider Indigenous knowledge in the development and implementation of protection and recovery measures. Indigenous engagement and support for proposed conservation measures are essential for the effective protection of the caribou. The Government is also listening to and receiving input from stakeholders.


“Quebeckers, First Nations and the federal government are expecting to see a robust and ambitious strategy from the provincial government, including the measures needed to achieve Quebec’s goal of 65 percent undisturbed habitat in each local population of caribou. We are ready to receive and assess their plan as soon as we get it, to ensure it lives up to the terms of our agreement and ensures the survival of Boreal Caribou in Quebec. I also intend to continue working with First Nations to advance our joint objective to ensure self-sustainable caribou populations.”
– The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Quick facts

  • As per the federal Boreal Caribou Recovery Strategy, provinces and territories are expected to put in place plans to outline how each range will be managed to maintain, or attain, a minimum of 65 percent undisturbed habitat.

  • Boreal Caribou is an umbrella species for the health of the boreal forest. Protection of the Boreal Caribou’s critical habitat is expected to improve outcomes for 80 other species, benefit 90 percent of the bird and mammal species that live in the boreal forest, and provide protection of soil carbon storage hotspots.

  • Boreal Caribou have been listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act since 2003.

  • The most recent national population estimate is 34,000 individuals, and the species’ numbers are declining. Population declines are primarily a result of habitat loss—due to both human land-use activities and fire—and the resulting changes in predator-prey dynamics.

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada has transferred approximately $76.6 million to provinces, territories, Indigenous groups, and stakeholders since 2018 through the Nature Legacy and Enhanced Nature Legacy to support Boreal Caribou recovery.

  • It is estimated that the Boreal Caribou population in Quebec totals at least 4,950 individuals. In Quebec, Boreal Caribou populations are subdivided into six local populations: Val d'Or, Charlevoix, Pipmuacan, Manouane, Manicouagan, and Québec.

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Kaitlin Power
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Media Relations
Environment and Climate Change Canada
819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll-free)

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